Outer original check
It’s raining dinosaurs. It’s like dinosaur rain.
need to know
what is it? PvPvE hero shooter with all dinosaurs
release date: July 13, 2023
Estimated payment: £50, $60
Comment date: i7 9700K, RTX 2080 TI, 16GB RAM
multiplayer game? Yes
Steam deck: playable
I’ve absorbed a lot of game elevator hype during my time, and Exoprimal’s ridiculous conceit is almost as strong as they are — at least on a primal level. You look at the purple miasma forming in the sky and see a horde of velociraptors pouring out of it, and you say to yourself: I’m definitely going to shoot it.
After tickling, I became even more conflicted. Capcom’s five-player PvPvE hero shooter is irresistibly enjoyable. It has some fantastic ideas. Almost all of them face frustrating limitations. In short, Exoprimal’s release status feels more like an early access phase than a finished game.
Before any extinct hides are pierced, there are plenty of surprising narrative setups: In 2043, time and space rifts pop up everywhere, dinosaurs enter civilization, an elite team of gun-toting and absolutely wild-accented is trapped on the island of Bikito, where an artificial intelligence named Leviathan conducts endless combat experiments for unknown purposes. Luckily for all of us, the Abius Corporation has invested heavily in developing exoskeleton suits to help groups like our ragtag hammerheads fight back against the Horde.
I didn’t need this much detail to motivate a shot of Tides the Dinosaur, but we had it anyway, and it couldn’t hurt (unless you count the actual physical pain of those accents hitting your ear). New text logs and cutscenes are added to the archive as you progress, and a giant radial menu slowly unravels the mysteries behind Dinosaur Thunderstorm, Rift, Abius, and the AI. It’s reminiscent of the piece-by-piece mechanic of Dead Rising, rewarding your playtime with the next piece of the puzzle. Even the way the story is told is gamified, to surprisingly good effect: I found my lizard brain stimulated by each new chunk of information, even though I had little emotional connection to the characters.
Cutscenes aside, what we saw was a mix of co-op clan survival and payload maps from Overwatch and Team Fortress 2. Your squad of five mech-clad heroes are working together to clear each wave of dinosaurs as quickly as possible, as there’s a rival team of humans performing the exact same mission in real-time, parallel instances. You’ll only see them between the Horde phases of the game, as red silhouettes. If they complete the stage before you, you can see them run to the next stage before you. This is a very effective carrot hanging in front of you.
Conversely, if you crush a triceratops mini-boss faster than the opposing human team, you’ll see silhouettes of the other team still fighting their own triceratops when you move to the next area. I’ve never felt so smug in my life as I did when I first saw this. Good luck, fools! I’ll chill out in the next section. Peace.
(Image source: Capcom)
This early game pays off big; the first team to complete each objective and enter the final mode gets a real head start, moving their payloads down the track before you’re in the same dimension to compete their progress.
If this sounds a bit like Destiny 2’s Gambit mode, that’s only because it is. But after a few games, Exoprimal’s esoteric rhythms made themselves known, and I came to appreciate what Leviathan’s endless combat trials actually were: a focus on relentless efficiency.
Combat is not only about survival, but also about time management. How you combine heroes and abilities is really important. This is Exoprimal’s chance to reveal itself beyond the Gambit clone, and your chance to play 4D Chess with a roster of Exosuits that can be exchanged in battle.
If you catch it in the right mood during the equinox, in the right light, it can almost be a glorious thing. Most of the components are there–escalating hazards, room to experiment, a roster of commandos, tanks, and support characters whose abilities interweave nicely when deployed properly. For example, the Witch Doctor’s AoE healing ability covers the same radius as Krieg’s shield dome, so if the two work together, they can create an OP circle. Murasame’s right-click attack throws enemies into the air, making them vulnerable to ranged attacks from vigilantes, and…
Well, let’s be honest, it doesn’t get much more tactical than that. At least not at launch.
1st image (6 in total)
(Image source: Capcom) (Image source: Capcom) (Image source: Capcom) (Image source: Capcom) (Image source: Capcom) (Image source: Capcom)
There’s something inherently fun about controlling these super-powered outfits. When I played tank heavy gunner Krieg, deploying a shield dome big enough for an entire squad to crouch inside, I felt like a pro. Bombarding hordes of raptors, throwing health here and there, even doing some teamwork with those shields, and then getting a match MVP for the massive damage I do… I can’t lie. It makes me smile. It’s like getting Fortress POTG in Overwatch – I know I’m mad at low skill, high reward games. I do not care.
There’s no shortage of silly fun. But a week later I can’t see how the tactics and the way players use abilities will evolve over time. Exoprimal is mostly about filming or beating up a bunch of Jurassic Park background artists. I haven’t played, or even seen, a super effective pylon fighter combo similar to TF2’s med-heavy partnership that fundamentally changes the action. Individual character abilities give you great feedback, but they don’t alley-oop with other people’s abilities to give you the satisfaction of fulfilling a strictly defined role. Despite class divisions, everyone is a damage maker. The next former fighter on the roster needs to be a true specialist to revolutionize the way you play.
I found myself in the position of an embattled alien communicator
While Exoprimal’s design isn’t quite as polished as hero shooters like TF2 or Overwatch, it does manage to keep the action readable. Voices are spoken each time a character uses a skill, which has unique visuals and animations. So it’s usually good to know what all the teammates around you are doing, who just dropped their abilities, and what you should do next.
But there are a few missteps here. The outlines of external fighter jets, especially those of Murasame and Zephyr, are too similar at first glance. As for the lines, it’s kind of like the way the witch doctor says “Don’t collapse!!” every time I deployed their E skills, it made me feel like my teammates would rather go without being healed, thank you all.
Maps lack volume and design. It feels like a spare part of a blasted Xbox 360-era Lost Planet game, with all-too-familiar near-future sci-fi dystopia assets scattered here and there in a way that hardly captures the imagination or inspires tactical ingenuity. Containers, overturned trucks, nature is recycling the tarmac. You know the type.
the future is underway
(Image source: Capcom)
In the first week of Exoprimal, I played the original unlocked exofighters in the only launch mode, Dinosaur Survival. I upgraded my player, outfit, and Survivor Pass levels, upgraded cosmetics and meaningful in-game perks (the proverbial gear and mods), and started to feel at least invested in the experience. It’s not an Overwatch beater, but they spend so much time on the plot that there’s something oddly compelling about it. As you level up, new dino variants are trickled down. The way the dinosaur survival mode changes subtly over time and incorporates authentic story moments, culminating in an epic “Behemoth” raid boss-style encounter.
The battle pass mod doesn’t get in the way. There’s no obvious P2W mechanic lurking in the store, and no insidious RNG slots preventing you from getting the cosmetics you want. For example, all exoskeletons can be purchased using the in-game currency Bikcoin. Tricking you doesn’t seem to be the main goal here.
At least, not after buying the game at full price. Because while the exoskeleton shows real promise and the modes have real tension, the overall experience feels a little sparse right now. My friends who have been playing with me during the review period have been asking me: Is this it? Is this the whole game?
yes and no. Capcom has laid out a post-launch content roadmap, which includes a new mode added just over a week after writing this review. The Savage Gauntlet launches on July 28th and is made for late game players testing their character specs. Beyond that, the August title update brought 10 “alpha exoskeleton variants,” a new map for Season 2, two planned collaborations with Street Fighter VI and Monster Hunter, some beta exoskeleton variants, and a new Triceratops.
(Image source: Capcom)
I haven’t played any of these yet. But based on my time with the Exoprimal so far, I think £50 might still feel a little light if all of this is included at launch. It feels like a game that wants to launch in Early Access and gather all the player feedback before perfecting itself, but doesn’t want to sacrifice launch week revenue in the process.
So I find myself in the position of an embattled out-of-origin communicator. I hope this game has a future, because like many people, I’m a natural fan of mass slaughter of lizards and ridiculous outfits. But also because I was drawn to the way Capcom drip-fed the story, put you in a stupor, and then changed the Dino Wars formula without warning. When the tightly defined constraints of the pattern are violated, it can have real consequences.
But I have a real PR job on my hands to get my teammates to sign up and be on the team with me. Because now yes, that’s it. This is the game, and nothing more.
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